What files do you NEED to back up?

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When someone brings me a computer that has a problem, my first question is: “Is there any data on this computer that is important, that is not backed up?”  Usually there is, which means I probably need to recover that data before I do the repair.



My next question often gets an interesting answer.  I ask, “Okay, what do we need to back up?”  This sometimes brings back the answer, “Oh, everything!”  Well, that’s not actually true.  Your computer actually contains a lot of data that doesn’t need to be backed up.  For example, the Windows operating system takes up a big chunk of space, but it doesn’t need to be backed up (and in fact it generally cannot be backed up anyway).

What then should you be backing up?

Today I will go over the most common types of files and folders that most people need to have backed up.  These are the things that you wouldn’t want to lose in the event your hard drive dies, or gets jolted by a little extra voltage, or gets corrupted by some malicious software (all of these things happen every single day).

(Before we get into that list, however – one thing that you need to know is that we don’t back up programs.  We only back up files and folders.  This means that your Microsoft Office program doesn’t get backed up (but the files that it creates, such as Word documents, does get backed up).)

Stuff to include in your automated online backup:

1. Documents – This means everything in your Documents folder, which usually includes files created by Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Publisher.  It also includes Adobe PDF files, text files, and files created by other word processing programs.

2. Photos – This is a big one, and often the files that are the most important.  If you have a bunch of pictures of your kids as they were growing up, you definitely don’t want to lose them!  In most cases, your photos will be in the Pictures folder, but there are some programs that store photos in other odd locations (Kodak EasyShare has been known to do this) so you need to make sure you are getting all of your photos in the backup.

3. Music – Do you have a large music collection?  Even if you only paid 88 cents or 99 cents per song, you don’t have to risk losing them.

4. Videos – These are usually located in the Videos folder.  They can include movies, TV shows or YouTube clips you may have downloaded, or family videos shot with a camcorder.

5. Desktop files – You really shouldn’t store actual data on  your desktop because it slows down the computer.  But if you do store important stuff there, you should include it in the backup.

6. Website favorites/bookmarks – Internet Explorer calls them Favorites, and Firefox calls them Bookmarks.  Some people have quite a large collection.

7. Email – “Email” covers a wide range of data, and can cover email messages, email folders, email contacts, signature files, etc.  If you use Outlook, all of those things plus your calendar, Tasks and Notes are all in one single file – better make sure you include that file when you back up!  The location of that one file is different depending on which version of Outlook you use.

8. Tax records – These will usually be stored in the Documents folder, in a subfolder named after the tax software, such as HRBlock or Kiplingers.

9. Personal finance records – The most common personal finance software is Quicken.  If you do Quicken backup, just save it in the Documents folder because you know that folder will be backed up online.

10. Business bookkeeping records – If you own a business, you might use Quickbooks, Peachtree or some other accounting/bookkeeping software.  Like Quicken, just make sure you do a Quickbooks backup and save it in the Documents folder which will then get backed up.

That list probably covers everything that 98% of computer users would need to safely back up.  If you use some type of special software that saves data in an unusual location you might be the exception.

Here’s an offer you can’t refuse…

If you have important files or folders on your computer and you aren’t on an automated backup plan yet, I will connect remotely to your computer and set this up for you at no charge.  Yes, you will still need to pay for the backup service itself (less than $5 per month when you pay it annually) but I will take care of setting it up for you.  It will take me about 10 minutes once I connect to your computer.

My ground rules for this offer:

1. This is a 10-15 minute remote connection only to set up the automated backup.  If your computer has other issues that need to be resolved, we’ll have to handle that at a different time.

2. This offer only applies to residents of US and Canada.  If you live outside of these countries, contact me and we will get your backup worked out in another way.

3. When your hard drive dies and your data is saved because of the backup we set up, I would like for you to provide me a written testimonial.  Not too much to ask, right?

So if your excuse has been that you just don’t know where to start or how to set up the automated backup, you no longer have any excuse.  Email me at pctutor@gmail.com to get this taken care of.

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